The first patient to be fitted with a device that “turbocharges” an ailing heart is recovering in a New Zealand hospital following surgery earlier this month.
C-Pulse, produced by Sunshine Heart, may one day be used to treat thousands of patients who suffer “moderate” heart failure. These people are not ill enough for a heart transplant or an artificial heart, but suffer symptoms such as extreme tiredness, and struggle to walk short distances even with the best drug therapy.
The C-Pulse comprises an inflatable balloon pressed against the aorta and kept in place by a polyester wrap stitched around the vessel, and together they form a cuff that follows the contours of the aorta.
The balloon reinforces the pumping action of a heart. Around 20 milliseconds after each beat, the balloon inflates, squeezing the aorta and propelling the blood around the body. The delay gives the heart valve time to close, ensuring the blood is not pushed back into the ventricle.
“The balloon then deflates, relieving the back pressure on the heart, so it can more easily eject blood with its next beat, after which the balloon once more inflates, completing its cycle.
Surgically implanted leads on the surface of the heart monitor its activity and transmit the data to a processor carried by the patient in a pack. The processor instructs the balloon to inflate and deflate, using air from an external pump. The device is powered by a rechargeable battery or may be plugged into the mains when the patient is not moving about.”